Ibuprofen and related drugs may reduce a person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease by 30 to 60 percent, according to a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging. But the authors strongly cautioned against unsupervised use of ibuprofen to try to prevent the disease. Ibuprofen can cause dangerous side effects, such as gastric bleeding. The present study shows only a correlation between taking the drug and a reduced risk of the disease. Rigorous clinical trials comparing ibuprofen with a placebo are still needed to prove whether the drug can actually play a protective role.

In the new study, reseachers examined medical records of 1,686 people from 1980 to 1995 and found that individuals who used ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs were 30 to 60 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Other common pain killers, such as aspirin and acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, did not reduce the Alzheimer's risk. It has been proposed that inflammatory responses by brain cells may contribute to the neural degeneration seen in Alzheimer’s disease. The new findings were published today in the journal Neurology.—June Kinoshita

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  1. . Risk of Alzheimer's disease and duration of NSAID use. Neurology. 1997 Mar;48(3):626-32. PubMed.